Over the past week, the narrative has equated lifting the ban on Jallikattu with saving the Indian bull. Jallikattu supporters who have flocked to the iconic Marina Beach in Chennai, have argued that because of the ban on bull-taming sport played on Pongal, the native Indian breed is going extinct.
Others have linked it to the larger picture of cow slaughter, claiming clamping down on this 2,000-year-old traditional sport in southern Tamil Nadu will push many of them across the border to the abattoirs in Kerala.
All political parties in Kerala have vociferously supported the Jallikattu cause even though they have been kept away from the leaderless civil society movement that has captured the nation's imagination. This includes the BJP, the ruling party at the Centre. The saffron party has always been a proponent of a ban on cow slaughter.
Except that it does not seem to walk the talk. In July 2016, the high court of Himachal Pradesh ordered the Union government to ban cow slaughter in the country besides prohibiting import and export of cow/calf for slaughtering and sale of beef and beef products in the next six months.
In fact, its 71-page order was a reiteration of its earlier October 2015 verdict when it had asked the government to enact a law within three months.
The court had rejected the argument of the Centre that since the subject falls under the state list, the state governments should take a call on the issue. The Himachal High court asked the Centre to enact the law at the national level under the Concurrent List.
|Dr Manmohan Singh and LK Advani, had in December 2015, taken a position against allowing bull-fighting in Goa, which was planning to legalise it at that point in time. [Photo: Indiatoday.in]|
But nearly six months after the fresh order, the NDA government has not moved on it. It is caught in a file war between Animal Welfare division of the Ministry of Environment and Forests and the Department of Animal Husbandry in the Ministry of Agriculture, on who should implement the order.
On 8 December, 2016, the Animal Husbandry department wrote to the Additional Solicitor General of India stating that this is the mandate of the MoEF. The environment ministry replied on 23 December taking a bureaucratic position that it was not impleaded as a party to the petition in the court and that it was the job of the cattle division of the animal husbandry department to implement the verdict.
It is rather strange that a party that puts great emphasis on a ban on cow slaughter, whose right-wing extensions assault people accused of indulging in cattle trade, is not grabbing the opportunity. Since July, it has had the opportunity to protect the cows and the bulls and show its heart beats for the cattle of India. Instead different departments of the Government of India want to ensure the buck does not stop at their table.
It should not be such a difficult job as on paper, cow slaughter is already illegal in most states of India. The only states where cow slaughter is legal are Kerala, Bengal, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura and Sikkim. Yet, the Centre has dragged its feet on implementing the HC verdict.
BJP's saffron brotherhood organisation, the VHP has been vocally supportive of the Jallikattu cause, asking the courts to stay out of it. "If anyone is so sentimental about lives of bulls, then come with us in our demand of a national law banning any slaughter of cow progeny," said Pravin Togadia, VHP's international working president.
Clearly, Togadia has no clue to the petition filed by an organisation called Govansh Rakshan Sanverdhan Parishad in Himachal Pradesh that led to the High court verdict.
The Congress, that also is indulging in the me-too-for-the cause moment for Jallikattu, too was found guilty of not doing enough to save the cattle class in Himachal Pradesh. The court ordered the chief secretary of the Congress-ruled hill state to release funds for construction of gaushalas in the state.
Interestingly, the two senior-most leaders of the Congress and the BJP, Dr Manmohan Singh and LK Advani, had in December 2015 taken a position against allowing bull-fighting in Goa, which was planning to legalise it at that point in time.
Locally called Dhirio, it is a traditional entertainment sport for Goans. It involves two bullocks that are prodded by their handlers to charge at each other, with spectators placing bets. Under pressure, the Goa government dropped the plan. Jallikattu has seen both singing a different tune.